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Home -> Blogs -> Free Kick -> Throwback Thursdays Eric Cantona

Throwback Thursdays Eric Cantona

Oct 16, 2014 19:33

Eric Cantona - A Maverick

If there are any mentions about the best centreforwards who ever graced the game, the name of a Frenchman just has to be in that list, known as Éric Daniel Pierre Cantona or simply as Eric Cantona.

Some call him genius while some call him a madman genius but there are no two ways regarding the fact that he was a genius with the ball at his feet. Eric Cantona was quite a journeyman before finally settling down at Manchester United in the early 1990’s. The main reason for his numerous transfers was his attitude and temperament. A maverick who wasn’t shy of giving someone a piece of his mind, if rubbed the wrong way.

Cantona was born in the city of Marseille and had a humble background as he lived in a house that was a cave in hills along the city of Marseille. He was from a family of rebels so now we know why he was the way he was!

The Frenchman was always the prodigal son as he was more known for his theatrics than for his on pitch performances. He moved to Marseille from Auxerre for a then record fee of French Francs 22 million. When in his early twenties, in a friendly game against Torpedo Moscow, he ripped apart his shirt and kicked the ball into the crowd as he was substituted while playing for Marseille. There was no doubt about his talent but his temperament was the one which held him back.

After his adventurous time in France, he moved across the channel to England aged just 25. He had trials at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. Ironically he was rejected by Trevor Francis, the then manager of Sheffield Wednesday, who termed him unfit to represent the club. He was even offered to United’s bitter rivals Liverpool by Michel Platini but Greame Souness declined to sign him.

Finally he signed for Leeds United from French club Nimes for a paltry fee of £900,000. As was the case with Cantona, this move also failed as he wasn’t able to settle in at Leeds. He was instrumental in their Championship success of Leeds in a short spell at the club. But in a meeting Leeds and Manchester United chairmen which was held to discuss Dennis Irwin came to a close with sale of Eric Cantona to Yorkshire rivals Manchester United for a fee of £1.2 million.

And as they say, the rest is history. Cantona’s best years coincided with a resurgent United side of 1990’s. Sir Alex Fergusson did what the likes of Franz Beckenbauer failed to do with the mercurial Frenchman. He had his share of disciplinary issues at Manchester United as well most notably the ‘Kung-Fu’ kick to a Crystal palace supporter at Selhurst Park. This incident saw him convicted and banned for eight months from all forms of football.

There were calls from all quarters to sack the player but then manager Sir Alex Ferguson stood by him and even made him sign an improved contract extension while he was banned. This leap of faith paid rich dividends as Manchester United had a glittering decade in which the Frenchman was their captain. He was despised by everyone but adored by the Mancunians as they referred him as ‘King Eric’. This is what he had to say post that incident on what was his best moment,

“My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”

Just like a King!

King Eric’s international career was not glittering as his club career. He was subsequently left out of the French World Cup squad which won the 1998 FIFA World Cup as the hosts. Aimé Jacquet, the French manager who named him as his captain was the same person who never selected him again after the Selhurst Park incident.

It was no secret that Eric Canrtona always had a penchant for theatrics and post retirement he literally made a career out of it as he went on to become a movie star in France. He never ceased to surprise. He later on dabbled into politics as well, as he made an unsuccessful bid to run for the French Presidential elections to support his charity campaign.

Cantona in nutshell –



Division 1 (2): 1988–89, 1990–91


Coupe de France (1): 1989–90

Leeds United

Football League First Division (1): 1991–92

Charity Shield (1): 1992

Manchester United

Premier League (4): 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97

FA Cup (2): 1993–94, 1995–96

Charity Shield (3): 1993, 1994, 1996

National team

France U-21

UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship (1): 1988

Individual Honours -

Ballon d'Or third place (1): 1993

BBC Sport Goal of the Month (2): February 1994, December 1996

PFA Team of the Year (1): 1993–94

PFA Players' Player of the Year (1): 1993–94

FWA Footballer of the Year (1): 1995–96

Premier League Player of the Month (1): March 1996

Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year (1): 1995–96

Onze d'Or (1): 1996

ESM Team of the Year (1): 1995–96

Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02)

Overseas and overall Team of the Decade

Overseas Player of the Decade

English Football Hall of Fame 2002

UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll 42nd

FIFA 100 Greatest Living Footballers

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